To others, though, the potential benefits are outweighed by moral conviction. In my opinion, this conviction that it is morally wrong to use unwanted human embryos for research represents a contemporary cultural fashion. I chose the word "fashion" not to trivialize anyone's belief, but because it conveys the idea that the belief is limited to a particular time, place and people, and is therefore neither universal nor eternal.
Opposition to stem cell research is restricted largely to Christians; it is not shared by most of the world's population. Indeed, prominent scholars of Judaism, a close cousin of Christianity, have argued that the use of unwanted human embryos to benefit people that are already living is not merely permissible, but an obligation. Rabbis Elliot Dorff, Moshe Dovid Tendler and Laurie Zoloth gave such testimony in June 2000 to the National Bioethics Advisory Committee. By this argument, it is the failure to conduct research on human embryonic stem cells that is in violation of religious teaching.
In many Asian countries, were you to ask someone if unwanted embryos should be used for research, they would probably wonder why you asked the question in the first place. In many of these cultures, the notion that early human embryos have a social and legal status independent of their parents simply does not exist in a typical person's mind. Indeed, with so many pressing issues confronting humanity today war, hunger, disease, overpopulation, depletion of natural resources the fact that there is a commotion over stem cell research in some "rich" countries seems curiously disproportionate.
But even if one were to strictly follow Christian dogma, one would encounter conflicting messages from different
Contact: Catherine Gianaro
University of Chicago Medical Center